In one month, Parker Chamberlin will learn whether he will be set free after serving 18 years in custody for the grisly murder of his mother.
The final witness testified Wednesday at Chamberlin's resentencing hearing, and Superior Court Judge Michael G. Bush said he will issue a ruling March 13.
Bush said prosecutor Nick Lackie and Assistant Public Defender Peter Kang, Chamberlin's attorney, will have two weeks to file documents arguing their position. They'll then have a week to respond in writing to each other's argument.
And then a week a later comes Bush's ruling. The judge said he's not sure yet what he's going to do.
"There are no easy answers, no right answers, but I'll have a ruling March 13 at 1:30," he said.
Chamberlin was 15 at the time of the 2001 slaying of his mother, Tori Lynn Knapp, 40.
State prison officials last year recommended the 33-year-old be resentenced based on his good performance while in custody. He was remanded to Kern County in advance of the past week's hearing — stretching over three days — in which counselors, relatives and the lead detective on the case have testified.
Some said he's ready to rejoin society. Others have said he will never deserve to be released.
Bush could choose to let Chamberlin continue serving his prison term of 26 years to life, in which case he'll be up for parole in 2023. Or he could strike a weapons enhancement that was part of Chamberlin's sentence, knocking a year off his term.
The judge could also decide to release Chamberlin. He would remain under supervision if freed.
The only witness to testify Wednesday was Don Krueger, currently a District Attorney's office investigator who served 30 years in the Bakersfield Police Department. He was the lead investigator in Knapp's killing.
Krueger testified that during his years in the BPD homicide unit he was called to the scene of more than 30 killings. Knapp's bedroom, where she was stabbed 35 times, was one of the two most gruesome scenes he ever investigated, he said.
The other, Krueger said, was the house where Vincent Brothers murdered his his wife, their three children and his mother-in-law.
Krueger testified Knapp's bed, where she was attacked, was covered in blood. Blood spattered the ceiling and walls.
Knapp's nude body lay north of the bed. She had numerous cuts and stab wounds all over her body, Krueger testified, especially to her head and face and her lower abdomen. She was partially disemboweled.
Chamberlin was twice interviewed that morning by Krueger and another detective. He at first told detectives he had encountered an intruder attacking his mother.
The deep cut on Chamberlin's right palm? He said he suffered that injury while defending himself against the attacker. Chamberlin said he chased the killer, but the man got away.
Krueger testified Chamberlin provided very detailed descriptions of what happened and of the assailant, including height, clothing and the way he ran.
But it was all a lie. The timeline provided by Chamberlin didn't add up, and the detectives confronted him with the inaccuracies of his statement.
They asked point blank if he killed his mother. Chamberlin confessed he did it.
He injured his hand while stabbing her. The knife had become so wet with blood as he repeatedly plunged it into her that his hand slipped from the handle and onto the blade.
A jury convicted Chamberlin of first-degree murder the following year.
Chamberlin testified Monday he has changed significantly in the past 18 years. At the time of the killing, he said, his identity was based solely on the opinion of others; nothing about him was "authentic." He allowed outside pressures, such as his mother's money issues, and his desire to live up to expectations, to box him in.
He testified he felt trapped, and he made a "terrible, terrible impulsive decision."
Now his identity is guided by values like love, compassion and integrity, he testified. He said if released his paternal grandmother has offered to let him live in her home, and he would try to counsel young people experiencing difficulties.
While acknowledging he hadn't yet reached a decision, Bush told the many friends and relatives of Knapp and Chamberlin in court Wednesday that regardless of his decision, Chamberlin will one day be set free. Based on the recommendations of state prison officials, it's just a matter of time.
The judge urged those who have said they will support Chamberlin, help him find work and a place to live, to be ready. Those who don't want him released need to prepare themselves for that day, too, he said.
Lastly, he addressed Chamberlin. He said he also needs to prepare himself for a life far different from the one he's led the past 18 years.